You might remember that last year, I spent a few days in May at what I called “preacher camp”! Nestled in a friend’s family cabin in Black Mountain, five pastor friends and I gathered for this inaugural experience of sermon-planning and story-sharing. We had watched mentors of ours do this each year, emerging from a few days away with gifts both tangible (namely, a year’s worth of sermons mapped out and worship ideas for the liturgical seasons ahead) and intangible (burdens shared, creativity spurred, leadership strengthened, and ideas a-plenty!). And I think I’m telling the truth when I say that each one of us left last year, certain that it was the best use of time away for ministerial renewal we’d had all year.

That same bunch of pastor friends and I are back in Black Mountain for several days this week, and I have been looking forward to this week since driving away from the cabin last year! These dear friends have become some of my most trusted colleagues in ministry, and we’ve cultivated our collegial friendship with one another on a near-daily basis in the year that’s passed. Over all the best digital tools 2017 has to offer — texts, messages, Skype, emails, you name it! — we’ve shared stories of wild baptisms and challenging Deacons meetings, sermon illustrations and job descriptions. These friends make me a better pastor and leader, and what I have learned and gleaned from them is impossible to quantify.

This year, we will focus some of our conversation on pastoral leadership, and we’ve reached out to some experts to help us fill in our knowledge gaps. One such expert is none other than my dear old dad (!), who will spend part of a day with us, equipping us with tools that our divinity school education just couldn’t prepare us for. Questions about the administrative part of church life — building management and capital campaigns, committee structures and stewardship — will guide our time with him, and I’m eager to let him pass along so much wisdom from 40 years of pastoral ministry to these fellow young pastors!

I’m certain that I will leave Black Mountain from our annual “preacher camp,” renewed and ready for the work of Love through First Baptist Church on Fifth that lies ahead. So thank you, First Baptist, for understanding the need for ministerial renewal! And thanks also to our Personnel Committee, who has been so good at ensuring that all our pastoral staff have both time and resources for professional development. It’s a win-win all around — a healthier, better equipped minister leads to a healthier, better equipped church!

Grateful to be on this journey — with dear friends, and with you, my beloved community!

Together in the work of Love,

Pastor Emily

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